The 53rd round of Bishwa Ijtema of the Tabligh Jamaat, the second largest congregation of Muslims across the world, is all set to begin on Friday after factions of Tabligh Jamaat reached an agreement that Indian preacher Maulana Muhammad Saad Khandhalvi will not go to the Ijtema ground on the bank of the Turag River in Tongi.
A controversy was created with the arrival of Maulana Saad, who was set to attend the 1st phase of the Ijtema, in Dhaka on Wednesday morning as hundreds of Tabligh followers staged demonstrations near airport bus stand, demanding to send back the preacher to his home country.
The protesters opposed Maulana Saad’s visit on the ground that Darul Uloom Deoband, the movement’s central seminary, has been maintaining a state of non-cooperation with him.
Despite the protest and hours of traffic woes suffered by the commuters in Uttara area, the preacher reached the Kakrail Mosque.
The opposing Tabligh followers, however, remained undaunted. They continued to stage demonstration in front of Kakrail Mosque till the on Thursday afternoon.
A group of Qawmi madrasa Alems [clerics] also held a meeting at the north gate of Baitul Mukarram National Mosque, protesting Maulana Saad’s visit.
To resolve the dispute, Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan called an emergency meeting at the secretariat around 3:30pm with the Tabligh Jamaat organizers and the Qawmi Alems. After about two hours of discussion, the disputing sides of the Tabligh agreed that Maulana Saad is not going to join the congregation in Tongi.
It has also been agreed that the preacher is going to stay at Kakrail Mosque during congregation, and will return to India at a time of his convenience.
Qawmi Madrasa Education Board (Befaq) Vice President Mawlana Ashraf Ali, its Joint Secretary Mawlana Mahfuzul Haque, Pir Saheb Principal Mizanur Rahman from Kapasia, Gazipur and Syed Wasif Islam, one of the ameers and also a Majlis-e-Shura member of Tabligh Jamaat, Bangladesh were present at the meeting.
Announcing the decisions of the meeting, Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan said that the dispute was centred on Maulana Saad’s controversial statements, and it was resolved through discussion between the sides.
He also mentioned that the government had never intervened in the matters of Ijtema, and will not do so this time.
All types of securities will be ensured like it was in the previous occasions, he added.
Meanwhile, the suspense over the Indian preacher did not hamper the last moment preparations at the Ijtema ground.
Thousands of Muslim devotees from 16 districts of the country have already thronged the venue to take part in the religious congregation.
Devotees from 135 countries will also participate in the Ijtema, adds UNB.
Ijtema will begin with the sermons by noted scholars after the Fajr prayers on Friday.
The second phase of the Tongi Ijtema will be held on January 19-21 at the same venue.
Tabligh Jamaat has been organizing the Ijtema at this venue since 1967. However, the Ijtema is held in two phases since 2011 to ease the accommodation and transportation problem.
Talking to reporters at Shaheed Assanullah Master Stadium in Tongi around 1:30pm, Gazipur Superintendent of Police Harun ur Rashid said around 6,000 personnel from different law enforcement agencies had been deployed to ensure security during the Ijtema.
Addressing a press conference at the temporary camp of the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) around 1pm on Thursday, its Additional Director Md Anwar Latif said they had taken into consideration all the risk factors while chalking out the security arrangements for the Ijtema.
Three dimensional security measures, encompassing the land and water routes as well as the air space, will be put into effect surrounding the Ijtema ground, he noted.
Besides the regular vigilance, the RAB personnel will keep watch with night vision binoculars from the watch towers dotting the Ijtema ground and the surroundings. Special vigilance will be ensured for the areas designated for the foreign nationals, said Anwar.
Adequate forces have been earmarked in all the battalions of Dhaka city for emergency support, he added.